Dan Feldman

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 03:  Head coach Michael Malone of the Sacramento Kings calls a time out against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on November 3, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Michael Malone says his family hasn’t worn purple since Kings fired him

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Michael Malone has taken the high road since the Kings ridiculously fired him in 2014.

But Malone, who now coaches the Nuggets, might be just a little bitter.

Malone on The Lowe Post podcast, as transcribed by AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today:

“I have not (worn purple since the firing),” Malone said recently on an ESPN podcast. “And what I really love about that is I haven’t, it’s my wife’s favorite color, she hasn’t, and my daughters haven’t. It’s almost become taboo, forbidden in our household.”

“It’s really funny though,” Malone continued. “I had a bunch of purple ties and stuff, because you try to work in your home colors, but I think I donated them to the national suit drive last year.”

If his wife stopped wearing her favorite color, that’s serious support – FAR more than Malone ever got from ungrateful and unaware Sacramento ownership.

LeBron James gives J.R. Smith an assists on Finals-altering block

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LeBron James helped the Cavaliers capture the 2016 NBA championship with a legacy-defining block of Andre Iguodala in the final minutes of Game 7.

LeBron has rightfully been exalted for the chase-down play, an incredible feat of athleticism and timing on the biggest stage.

But LeBron is sharing the credit with J.R. Smith.

LeBron, via the Open Run podcast:

I always tell J.R. and Shump and Kyrie and all our guards, if you see me running, if you can just make the offensive player just change his momentum just a little bit, it’ll give me enough time to track it. It’ll give me enough time to track it down.

Buy me a second. If you look at the play, J.R. swung over top, and Iguodala had to scrunch just a little bit instead of going up and jamming. And he had to scrunch just a little bit, and that gave me the split second to either – and I was ready.

In related news: Smith – who shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron – remains a free agent.

Manu Ginobili overcome by emotion in post-game interview (video)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17:  Manu Ginobili #5 of Argentina reacts after losing to the United States during the Men's Basketball Quarterfinal game at Carioca Arena 1 on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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Manu Ginobili‘s international retirement closed a terrific era of Argentinian basketball.

The Golden Generation’s end was a lot for him to process:

If Team USA’s highlights against Argentina don’t excite you, the bench reactions will (video)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17:  Kevin Durant #5 of United States with the ball against Manu Ginobili #5 of Argentina during the Men's Quarterfinal match on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Kevin Durant Eurostepping, Kyrie Irving crossing over, DeAndre Jordan powerfully dunking and DeMar DeRozan acrobatically dunking — and Team USA’s bench going wild for it all.

Watch highlights of the Americans’ quarterfinal win over Argentina:

Tiago Splitter: Hawks improve defensively with Dwight Howard (over Al Horford), Dennis Schroder (over Jeff Teague)

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 20:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets defends against Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks during their game at the Toyota Center on December 20, 2014 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The Hawks shook up their starting lineup this summer. They traded point guard Jeff Teague, elevating backup Dennis Schroder. They also signed center Dwight Howard, clearing the way for Al Horford to leave for the Celtics.

How will those moves affect Atlanta?

Hawks backup center Tiago Splitter doesn’t beat around the bush.

Splitter, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

β€œ(Howard) is a little bit more of a defensive player than Al, more rebounds, more physical presence on the court,” Splitter said. β€œThat is going to change our team. … Dennis, he is also a great defender. He’s a better defender than Jeff. He will pressure the point guard the whole court. He is growing up and getting more solid.”

The Hawks allowed the second-fewest points per possession last season, behind only the Spurs. Clearly, Horford and Teague were doing something right.

Horford was far better defensively than Howard last season. The 6-foot-10 Horford has the size to defend the paint, mobility to defend the perimeter and intelligence to put it all together. Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, hit a higher defensive peak. But as he has aged and gone through injuries, he his defense has fallen off. Maybe Howard can get healthier and reclaim his form in Atlanta, but that’s far from a given.

Still, even if he doesn’t defend as well overall as Horford did last season, Howard might help the Hawks. Horford’s defensive strengths are similar to Paul Millsap‘s, and those redundancies allowed deficiencies elsewhere. Howard is better-equipped to handle big centers and rebound, an area of concern in Atlanta. The Hawks were one of the NBA’s worst defensive-rebounding teams last year.

Schroder and Teague also present an interesting transition. Schroder improved immensely defensively last season, and Teague regressed. Quick with long arms, Schroder has even more defensive potential if he focuses more on that end. Will Teague bounce back if healthier? (He’s just 28, so betting on his improved physical condition is less risky than with Howard.) Will Schroder pay more attention to defense as he gets the major offensive role he long desired?

Howard and Schroder could improve Atlanta’s defense, but the Hawks defended pretty darn well with Horford and Teague. I’m not nearly as convince as Splitter the two new starters are upgrades.